Saturday, October 3, 2009

Free Irish Lessons from The Irish People Newspaper

I've always been interested in the Irish language but for one reason or another never formally studied it. I suppose it's mainly because my relatives spoke English both here in the US and in Ireland. And, of course, as it's not one of the standard foreign language selections in American schools, an Irish course was not easy to come by as a student.

My mother excelled in Irish at the National School in Ireland; she won a silver medal for achievement, which I wear proudly around my neck on occasion. Many of those occasions are times when I need encouragement or even comfort to get through a difficult situation. But I digress. My purpose in writing this entry is to share a free Irish language course I discovered recently on the Internet.

Here is the whole course of Irish Lessons from Irish People, the newspaper. There is also an easier to read version that is broken into separate lessons on -- There are 125 lessons in all. See also original files on Irish Northern Aid website (and addendum below)*

I found the lessons originally on in the text version that you can copy and paste into a Word document and save on your computer (or save the web pages). There are more Irish language references on the same website. You can likely find these lessons on other pages, as well, since the original publisher has granted permission to reprint the Irish lessons with credit to the "Irish People" newspaper - but you won't find that particular publication on the web as it ceased printing some years in the past, before the Internet was invented. The pronunciation guide is phonetic spellings of the spoken language.

Lesson One indicates the lessons were prepared "especially for persons who are studying alone or in small groups without a teacher, books or recordings" and when the paper reran the Irish study course it stated, "The purpose of the course is to give Americans, whether of Irish descent or not, a working knowledge of the Irish language."

Of course, I was curious, as you may be, about The Irish People newspaper and found some information on the founder of the paper, William O'Brien, who lived from 1852 to 1928. He was active politically and concerned for the plight of the Irish tenant farmer. In 1898 O'Brien co-founded the nationalist political party United Irish League with Michael Davitt and in 1899 he founded the League's paper Irish People See more on William O'Brien. As best I can determine, the the Irish People newspaper ceased publication in 1904. (See Addendum below.*)

It's wonderful, and important, to hear the language. You can hear as well as read Irish Gaelic on Irish "word of the day" (free) courtesy of Transparent Language. Language-Learning-Advisor suggests other resources for learning Irish, including the well-respected Rosetta Stone products.

So, now I am adding another dimension to my appreciation of Irish culture and  history by delving into the language of my ancestors. Fortunately, there is a resurgence of interest in speaking Irish Gaelic and I am finding many opportunities to hear it both spoken and in song.

*Addendum: I have since located what appears to be the original source of the Irish Lessons on the Internet at The Irish Northern Aid website. There are 128 lessons with a copyright notation as crediting The Irish People as follows: (c) 1997, 1998 The Irish People. May be reprinted with credit. 

Friday, June 5, 2009

Jerry's Irish Bread

My brother Jerry could be counted on to bring a couple of loaves of this wonderful Irish soda bread along with a pot of Boston Baked Beans to just about any family gathering. Here is his recipe for Irish Bread as shared with the family by brother John.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
In a Large Bowl, Mix (Fork)
3 Cups FLOUR
1 Tablespoon BAKING POWDER
½ Teaspoon SALT

In a Small Bowl Mix
2 EGGS (Beaten)
1/3 Cup SUGAR
1/8 Cup OIL
1-1/4 Cup MILK
ADD 1 Tablespoon CARAWAY SEEDS (1 tsp if you don't like) 1 Cup RAISINS


I'll add a photo when I bake this myself. It would look very similar to "Mr. Nick's" Irish Bread recipe posted here in March 2009. Jerry would bake them in long loaf tins similar to Trina's Irish Brown Bread posted here in April 2009.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Irish Play "The Banshee of Crokey Hill"

Acclaimed Irish Play The Banshee of Crokey Hill comes to the Regent Theatre in Arlington MA June 26th to 28th.

This exceptional piece of Irish drama – set in rural Ireland in the 1970’s - has received rave reviews in Ireland, England and the United States and has been hailed as one of the most powerful pieces of drama to come from the Emerald Isle for some time. Although the play is steeped in Irish comedy and hilarious Irish one-liners it also has a serious undertone as the soured relationship between a father and son manifests itself in most unusual circumstances. Audiences will be fascinated by the incredible plot that unfolds throughout the show.

The plot evolves around the return home of Mickey McMahon (Tommy Marren) to visit his aging parents Jack McMahon (John Duggan) and his wife Kathleen (Eileen Slevin) after 13-years living in Manchester. The purpose of his visit is to tell them he is about to get married in Manchester but sadly a black secret kept from him by his parents unfolds. [MidWest Radio 5/5/09]

There is an exceptional ‘hooley’ scene that includes a breath-taking display of brush-dancing (an old Irish dance done with a sweeping brush!) by Brian Cunningham from Connemara in County Galway and traditional musician that will warm the hearts of the audience!

Show times are Friday June 26th and Saturday June 27th at 8.00 pm and Sunday June 28th at 3.00 pm. Tickets are available on line at The Regent Theatre [more info on the play, too!] or phone 781- 646 4849. Tickets are expected to sell fast so don't wait if you want to see this.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Next Stop Galway - Boston Celebrates Restart of Race

The Irish Waterfront Festival at the Fan Pier on Boston's waterfront is the final celebration of the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race's only American stop on this round-the-world race - the weekend kicks of at 5PM Friday - the Race Village closes at 6pm on Saturday May 16th 2009 after the boats leave for Galway, the next stop!

Find the latest event details with photos and running commentary.  Read about Ireland's Green Dragon crew.

Directions: The Race Village is located on Fan Pier. Fan Pier is located directly on Boston’s waterfront between the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and the Moakley Courthouse at 28 Northern Avenue.
By T – From South Station take Silver Line to Courthouse Station (1 stop). Detailed directions from any direction are on the official website. Don't miss this up close and in your face amazing video on the home page of what it's all about.

Next stop: Galway - the only stopover in Ireland and the UK. The yachts are estimated to arrive May 23, 2009, where they will stay for two weeks - events run to June 6th. Find details on the Galway stopover on and Discover Ireland.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Irish Reel Step Dance Notes

One of the mementos saved from childhood is my teacher's handwritten Irish Step Dancing notes of the seven steps of the Beginner Reel (print it) including the Lead Out. I've since typed the notes and saved the file as a printable PDF document.

The new way of teaching "the sevens" isn't the "kick hop" but more of an "up" to the knee in front and down in back for the 1. If you're new to Irish step dancing, have a look at this instruction video on Expert Village.

Note: the step dancers in the photo are from Sheila Bremer's Bremer School of Irish Dance  in Salem, MA. The event was their "sunset ceili" fundraiser.

Reel - Irish Step Dance Steps

First Step
R.F.    Kick hop 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
L.F.    Kick hop 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
R.F.    Kick hop 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
L.F.    Kick hop 1-2-3
R.F.    Kick hop 1-2-3
Repeat starting with left foot.

Second Step
Kick hop 1-2-3-4 kick hop down (3 times)
Kick hop 1-2-3 Kick hop 1-2-3
Repeat starting with left foot.

Third Step
Kick hop, Kick hop, Kick hop 1-2-3 (3 times)
Kick hop 1-2-3 Kick hop 1-2-3
Repeat starting with left foot.

Fourth Step
R.F.    Kick hop, Kick hop, Kick hop1-2-3 (3 times)
L.F.    Kick hop, Kick hop, Kick hop1-2-3
R.F.    Hop 1-2-3
L.F.    Hop 1-2-3
R.F.    Kick hop, Kick hop, Kick hop-2-3
Repeat stating on the left foot.

Fifth Step
1-2, 3-4, kick hop 1, kick hop 2, kick hop 1-2-3
The 1, the 2, the 3
Toe-toe, heel toe
The 1, the 2, the 3,
And the 1-2-3 and the 1-2-3
Repeat starting with left foot.

Sixth Step
Toe-toe heel toe the 1, the 2, the 3 (3 times)
And the 1-2-3 and the 1-2-3
Repeat starting with left foot.

Seventh Step
Kick hop, kick hop, kick hop 1-2-3
Kick hop 1-2-3
The cut, the cut
Toe to heel toe the 1 the 2 the 3
Kick hop 1-2-3, kick hop 1-2-3
Repeat starting with left foot.

Lead Out
The 1 the 2 the 3 and the 4 (frontwards)
The 1 the 2 the 3 and the 4 (backwards)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Green Chile Quiche Recipe

It's not Irish but it is a favorite. I re-discovered the recipe while cleaning out kitchen cupboards today. I'm posting it, not only to share it, but to save it for myself. This makes a great appetizer and is very easy to make. [I've had a couple of cans of chopped green chiles on hand just so I can make this recipe; one is 4.5 ounces and the other 7 ounces - just about right.]

3 4-oz. cans roasted, peeled green chiles (don't use jalapenos)
1 pound (16 ounces) mild cheddar cheese, grated
3 Tablespoons milk or cream
1 Tablespoon chile juice
1 Egg

Remove seeds from chiles and save juice.
Line a 9-inch pan with chilies.
Top with Cheese.

Mix milk or cream, chile juice, and egg. Pour over top of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 - 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Cut in squares. Unusual and delicious!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Irish Brown Bread Recipe

I made Trina McKillen Steinberg's Irish Brown Bread Recipe after viewing a video of her making it on You Tube. Watch the video and you'll see how easy it is to make. I put together this recipe based on her video. This is among the best brown breads I have tasted and I love that it has simple and wholesome ingredients.


2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour, unbleached organic all purpose or bread flour
1/4 cup bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
2 cups fresh buttermilk
Sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or a whisk. Stir in buttermilk to form a soft dough. Spray a loaf pan with canola oil spray and roll mixture into pan. Smooth dough out to sides. Sprinkle the top liberally with sesame seeds.

Bake for 1 hour at 400; the top will rise in the center and it will pull away from the sides of the pan when done.

This is wonderful as is or even better toasted and buttered and spread with marmalade or a favorite jam. It's a great accompaniment with tea or coffee. This is very similar to the many different and delicious brown breads I enjoyed in Ireland.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Irish Bread Recipe for St. Patrick's Day

I have a new recipe for Irish Bread I have tried a couple of times with very positive feedback (people liked it).


Mix dry ingredients:
4 cups flour
1-3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants (or more raisins)

Add in remaining ingredients:
4 tablespoons shortening (or butter)
2 eggs
1-1/4 cups buttermilk (see note)
2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)

Mix all the dry ingredients together, including the raisins, before adding the butter, eggs, and buttermilk, and knead it a little. Mixture should be thick and moist. Grease round casserole well. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes (or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean).

Frost if desired, although it doesn't need frosting or butter. [I have eaten Irish Bread with green frosting from a bakery - although unusual, it was good. This recipe is sweet, calling for more sugar than most Irish breads, which may be the reason for the many compliments.

The recipe is adapted from "Mr. Nick's Cookbook - a Buffet of World Cultures" compiled by Bob Nickolau, a retired Marblehead (MA) schoolteacher - the result of a world culture social studies research project with over 15 years of celebrating world cultures with food.

This recipe uses buttermilk. If you don't have fresh buttermilk on hand, you can use the packages of dry buttermilk, using 1 envelope plus 2 teaspoons of dry buttermilk (or a total of 10 teaspoons) mixed in with the dry ingredients; then use regular milk where the recipe calls for buttermilk. [Alternatively, if you have neither fresh nor dry buttermilk, you could make sour milk by adding vinegar to milk in the proportions 2 tablespoons to 1 cup ; this is used in other Irish Bread recipes, but I cannot guarantee the same results as with buttermilk.]

The recipe calls for shortening, but I prefer to use butter. I'm not crazy about caraway seeds so I don't use them. I haven't had the currants on hand so I simply added more raisins - I prefer the golden raisins over the dark ones. Although it is traditional to cut the butter into the flour mixture, I melt the butter in the microwave, as it seems easier to blend the melted butter in with the dry ingredients.

I have baked this in a large round Pyrex-type (glass) baking dish with good results. It rises very high. I may try making two smaller loaves instead of one large loaf so it will bake faster or more evenly. And the thought occurred to me as well, because of the nice crispy crust, to see how these would come out if I dropped the batter in cookies sizes on a baking sheet; I really do think they'd make terrific little Irish Bread Cookies. [Follow-up note: I tried baking this Irish Bread as a rounded loaf - actually more oblong - on a baking sheet, but I think the baking sheet material was too thin (or I just plain cooked it too long, and it burned the bottom slightly.]

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Matt & Shannon Heaton at Club Passim

 Matt and Shannon Heaton are releasing their new CD at Club Passim (47 Palmer St in Harvard Sq, Cambridge, MA) this Friday, Feb. 6, 2009 at 8pm. The duo performs traditional Irish music and original tunes with lush instrumentation. This CD release show for their new album Lover's Well, a collection of love songs, features guest John Williams. Amanda Cavanaugh will perform an opening set. She also has a new CD.

You can hear Kieran Jordan's sean-nos dancing feet on one track on each new album. [photo from Kieran Jordan's website]

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Traditional Irish Tunes from Boston on ClareFM

The Kitchen Sessions 2 podcast and photos for the Kitchen Session #4 held at the Dunleavey's in Boston (Feb-09) are now available. Have a listen to some great Irish traditional music.

Chatting in the photo above (photos courtesy of Gerry Foley) are Frank Keane, a set dancer and fan of Paula Carole and The Kitchen Session, Paula Carole, the announcer and organizer of the show, and host, Gerry Dunleavy, just prior to the broadcast. [Source: IrishThymes; more photos at]

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Listen Live to ClareFM in Ireland

Listen Live to ClareFM and the the Kitchen Sessions 2 from ClareFM. Read more >>